I read with interest a commentary by Lin Xu, in your edition of December 30,2012, making some negative remarks about the state of India as a liberal democracy in the wake of the widespread public protests, particularly by the students of Delhi against the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a private bus on the night of December 16,2012.
2. There has been considerable public outrage all over India, particularly in Delhi, over this incident which illustrates the increase in crime against women, the inability and incompetence of the police in dealing with it effectively and the insensitivity of the political leadership in responding to the outrage.
3.One saw a similar student upsurge in the Tiananmen Square of Beijing in June 1989 caused by allegations of widespread political corruption and lack of democratic rights. The response of the authorities of democratic India and the one-party Chinese dictatorship to the two student protests differed qualitatively.
4. The Delhi police imposed curbs on student protests in certain areas sensitive from the VIP security point of view such as the Vijay Chowk and used force mainly in the form of tear-smoke and long bamboo sticks called lathis to prevent protests in these areas. Outside these areas, the students were free to demonstrate wherever they wanted. Both Indian and foreign media freely covered the protests in the restricted as well as non-restricted areas. The Army was not used. No martial law was proclaimed. There was only one death in the confrontation between the police and the students---that of a policeman.
5. As against this, to deal with the student upsurge in Beijing, the Army was called and a Martial Law was proclaimed. The Army used tanks to disperse the students. Till today, neither the Chinese people nor foreign media have an authentic account of the number of students killed by the tanks and other units of the Chinese army.
6.The Government of China banned any reference to the Tiananmen Square upsurge by the media or social media networks. The Chinese authorities projected it as a non-event to which there should be no reference in any discussion or articles.
7.That is the difference between democratic India and authoritarian China. In India, 65 years after our independence, we still have many serious deficiencies---political, administrative, economic and social. We are concerned over them, but we do not push them under the carpet. We freely admit them, criticize our leaders and officials for them, project them in our media and protest in public over them without any fear that we may find ourselves in jail for doing so. Can anyone in authoritarian China do so? The day you allow your people the right to do so, you will have the moral right to criticize India, but not now.
8. Permit me to cite another example of the qualitative difference between democratic India and authoritarian China. Last year, the “ Washington Post” published a highly negative article on Dr.Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, sent by its correspondent in New Delhi. There was considerable anger in Indian official circles over the article, but the correspondent did not have to suffer any negative consequences for writing that article. The Indian media and opposition political parties, which have been unhappy over the functioning of Dr.Manmohan Singh, freely disseminated the article. The Government did not try to prevent them from doing so.
9. During the same period, the “New York Times” carried an investigative report on the wealth of some family members of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. There has been an unadmitted ban on the dissemination of this article inside China. The Chinese Government has not extended the visa of the NY Times correspondent who sent this report, thereby forcing him to leave China.
10.There has been increasing pressure from the Internet generation in China for greater political reforms with an end of the single-party dictatorship and the introduction of a multi-party democracy. The Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt has added to Chinese fears that the younger generation in China has not forgotten and forgiven the Tiananmen Square massacre and wants genuine democracy and political reforms, the key demands of the 1989 generation.
11.Your paper, which is the voice of the Communist Party of China, has, therefore, been trying to project the student outrage in Delhi as indicating the dangers of the imperfections of Indian-style democracy and social deficiencies. Your tactics is unlikely to succeed.
12. It is India’s free and open despite imperfect society and style of democracy that will ultimately succeed. ( 2-1-13)
Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )